PCWorld.com blogger David Coursey says AT&T is no longer the only one asking the Federal Communications Commission to look into Google's practice of blocking calls made with Google Voice to certain rural areas. Citing Reuters, he says a "bipartisan group of 20" legislators has asked the FCC to investigate.
AT&T first raised the issue last week after hearing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski explain that the agency's net neutrality principles were to become formal rules rather than just guidelines. AT&T claimed that Google was violating the principles by blocking calls to rural areas just because they were expensive to connect. As I recall, the argument went something like this:
By openly flaunting the call-blocking prohibition that applies to its competitors, Google is acting in a manner inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the FCC's fourth principle contained in its Internet Policy Statement. Ironically, Google is also flouting the so-called 'fifth principle of nondiscrimination' for which Google has so fervently advocated.
Google, of course, argues that it should not be subject to the same regulations as the telecom industry because its Voice service is Web based. Leaving aside for now the fact that AT&T has argued net neutrality rules shouldn't apply in the wireless sector, Coursey isn't buying Google's stance. He says:
The Associated Press "duck rule" applies here: ... Google Voice, which is a wonderful free service, looks, acts, and sounds like a telephone company. It should, for the most part, be regulated as such.
He notes that now is an ideal time for the FCC to address network access and competition issues "from the top down" and predicts that newer services like VoIP and wireless access will win out over traditional telecom.